The Most Chaotic Congress in Memory Is Pure Style Chaos, Too

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When the C-SPAN live-stream cameras float over the chamber, giving a gauzy aerial view of the House floor, it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope, or maybe at a really miserable Hieronymus Bosch painting. This week has seen the 118th Congress sputter out on its remarkable tenth (and counting) failed vote to elect a speaker, which would be chaotic on its own. But when you look at the clothes, things are even wilder: it’s a haze of black and navy jackets and dresses, milling over a royal blue carpet dotted with gold wreaths. One fish, two fish, red tie, blue tie. Occasionally, a bolt of vaguely bipartisan purple or yellow. “The Washington wardrobe is so standardized that any deviation from the norm stands out, especially on TV,” writes Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times, referring to new Pennsylvania junior senator John Fetterman’s new suit. Politicians have long used clothing to bolster or subvert their messages. But this week, it’s hard to know where to look.

Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), center, in the House Chamber on Thursday.Bloomberg/Getty Images

That said! It’s easy, at first, to settle one’s gaze on George Santos, the Republican representative-elect from Queens who arrived in Washington this week mired in a truly bonkers web of falsehoods. On his first day at the Capitol, Santos wore a thin periwinkle-blue sweater under his navy jacket and mostly sat alone—looking, as the Washington Post described him, “very much like a freshman at a prep school in hell.” That day, a photographer captured him mid-yawn, face stretched in a wide Ducreuxian inhale; later on, he committed the Menswear Twitter faux pas of wearing a backpack over his suit. The next day, and the day after that, he donned a pair of dark-rimmed Clark Kent glasses—another identity?—and mingled with his new far-right pals. According to my colleague, timepiece cognoscente Cam Wolf, on Santos’s wrist is…a Cartier Santos watch, which Forbes couldn’t resist suggesting might also be fake.